FILM :: 3 HORROR FILMS TO WATCH FOR YET IN 2013

2013 has actually been a really interesting year for horror films. The genre is on a great trajectory.

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Here are three films yet to drop in 2013 that show a ton of promise.

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01

“YOU’RE NEXT”

RELEASE :: August 23, 2013

LIONSGATE SAYS :: “One of the smartest and most terrifying films in years, YOU’RE NEXT reinvents the genre by putting a fresh twist on home-invasion horror. When a gang of masked, ax-wielding murderers descend upon the Davison family reunion, the hapless victims seem trapped…until an unlikely guest of the family proves to be the most talented killer of all.”

MY TAKE :: For me, this is easily the genre film I am most looking forward to this year. I think it gives us so much to love — creativity, pulse-pounding carnage, Adam Wingard at the helm (“Home Sick,” “VHS,” “VHS2” and “Pop Skull”) and some really beautiful cinematography by up-and-coming new talent Andrew Droz Palermo.

The best two things to happen to the horror genre in the past 10 years are real style and true creativity. It existed in the genre, but a select few were doing it right. Filmmakers like these gents are bringing that to the forefront. Wingard’s creativity has been recognized with his previous releases. It makes a difference because as viewers exposed to a wider range of content than ever before, we’re very ready to watch really different stories told in interesting ways. From a style standpoint, take a peek at the shots in this music video shot by Palermo ::

Apart from their definite style, there’s a wonderful intimacy in the shots. That is so perfect for a horror project like this as it draws us in that much more. It creates those subtle emotional connections that make the best horror films work so well (think “Rosemary’s Baby”).

Watch for this one, all!

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02

“HORNS”

RELEASE :: October 11, 2013


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(Thanks to EW for the pic!)

MANDALAY PICTURES SAYS :: “A love story driven by horror, mystery and vengeance, follows edgy twenty-six-year-old Ig Perrish who awakens from a night of hard drinking to find devil horns sprouting from his own head. As the horns grow, Ig realizes that they enable him to hear the inner thoughts and darkest temptations of those around him — a nifty tool in solving and avenging his late girlfriend’s murder.”

MY TAKE :: Daniel Radcliffe continues to redefine his career after “Harry.” This may move him the furthest. With a cult-like following for the source material from Joe Hill (Stephen King’s Son), and Alexandre Aja directing (“Piranha” and High Tension”) this has a ton of potential to be really fun.

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03

“CARRIE”

RELEASE :: October 18, 2013

SONY PICTURES SAYS :: “A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore), who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King, Carrie is directed by Kimberly Peirce with a screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.”

MY TAKE :: Normally, this sort of project makes me want to run away screaming. Remember 2002’s “Rollerball?”… SACRILIGE! Major ugh! And there is absolutely NO question that the original was a true crossover classic. Spacek and Laurie were just amazing, creating truly memorable characters out of the Stephen King book. HOWEVER, a lot of very interesting choices have been made for this version. Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore are two of those great choices. Annnd, an interesting selection on direction for the project… Kimberly Pierce of “Boys Don’t Cry” fame. This has the promise of capturing some of that emotional resonance that we feel with the original and that’s really the point.

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MUSIC :: THE ROOTS OF HORROR ROCK PART III… THE MISFITS

The Misfits. One of the true pillars of the horror rock genre. Many consider them the progenitors of the genre, though they were definitely preceded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Alice Cooper as we have explored. But this in NO WAY detracts from their contribution to the scene. Though those artists may have led the way, The Misfits MADE the scene in many ways. Their fusion of the dark themes of horror and the nihilistic punch of punk is a match made in heaven that still seems progressively retro today.

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Formed in 1977 in New Jersey by Glenn Danzig, The Misfits took what was happening in the American punk scene and brought their love of horror to it, creating a theatrical approach that made them unique among their early peers. Their image was built with a mix of makeup, memorable hair, great branding and horror imagery surrounding them. The songs formed the bedrock for this image though, leveraging grade B horror themes. Titles like “Vampira,” “Halloween,” “London Dungeon,” “Horror Business,” and “Night of the Living Dead” and a self-formed label named “Plan 9 Records” for the Ed Wood sci-fi horror classic “Plan 9 From Outer Space” showed this love for the genre at large.

As a creative professional with a focus on design who helps create brands every day, I can think of few bands EVER who did a more successful job of creating a visual icon to represent the band than The Misfits. Their “Fiend” symbol and typography for “The Misfits” is instantly recognizable and anchored the band’s visual identity in a truly iconic way. The symbol was based on a poster for the 1946 serial “The Crimson Ghost.” It first appeared on the single for “Horror Business.” Here is the original image that inspired the mark ::

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Their appeal is not all theatrics and image, though. Not even close. The songs themselves were milestones among the American punk scene. Though the band’s finest work was their early output with Danzig still on board, the 90’s re-formed band carried forward the sound in a solid way. Listen to the anthemic growl and horror thematics ::

Here is the band live in a 1983 performance ::

Represent The Misfits, inventors of “Horror Punk!”

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FILM :: REVIEW… DAHMER (2002)

Another review from the world of dark cinema.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )

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FILM :: DAHMER
YEAR :: 2002
DIRECTOR :: David Jacobson

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The real-life terrors of Jeffrey Dahmer’s bizarre, cannibalistic psycho-sexual murders are almost too horrific to comprehend. We have all heard so much about the gore involved in the case that it would be tempting to go “Hostel” with a film like this.

Director David Jacobson makes a different choice. He eschews the “severed head in the icebox” styled tale for something more psychological. It makes the film more of a mood piece in an interesting way. We see Dahmer working up to his first kill, intercut with encounters with specific victims. The non-linear storytelling adds interest while the intimacy in the encounters, juxtaposed with Dahmer’s psychopathic detachment brings tension and drama.

The real star of the show here is Jeremy Renner in the title role. His Dahmer provides some real creeps through subtlety and nuance. VERY well acted. No caricature here, just true acting talent portraying the terrible manipulations of the psychotic mind. It’s a tough role to embody, but Renner does so with realism and pathology. Artel Great and Dion Basco play a duo of the killer’s intended victims with real emotion and empathy. The rest of the cast is quite solid as well.

The beef I have is that the film stops a bit short. Though I applaud Jacobson’s desire to create something that focused on more than the gore in this story, it does leave the viewer feeling a little unfulfilled. The film would have benefitted from a GLIMPSE, just a glimpse, of how far Dahmer went eventually when his psychotic fantasies became reality.

In all, a very well-acted psycho drama about one of the darkest real-life examples of a human predator with very solid cinematography. For those interested in serial killers or true crime psychodrama, this is definitely something to catch. Renner fans should NOT miss this one, either.

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RATING ………………. 3.5 STARS

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MUSIC :: A HORROR FAN’S RUNNING PLAYLIST — PART III — THE CLASSICS

This is the third installment in a continuing series calling out songs that should be in every horror fan’s running (or exercise) playlist. For this edition, it’s about the classics. I’m returning the the days of my youth and three songs that pay homage to the monster classics that I cut my teeth on.

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On with the dark tuneage.  ::

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07

“Godzilla” — Blue Oyster Cult

As a youngster, I spent many Saturday afternoons in the darkened Riviera Theater on Lake Avenue in Rochester, NY watching monster matinees that featured everyone’s favorite Tokyo-destroying / defending nightmare Godzilla. I loved those afternoons. That’s just one of the reasons I love this song. BOC was at the height of their powers with this funky novelty piece; just an awesome tune. Maybe that’s why bands like Fu Manchu, The Smashing Pumpkins and Racer X have covered it. Imagine yourself running from the great Godzilla’s earth-shaking footfalls for an extra kick to the workout.

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08

“Frankenstein” — The Edgar Winter Group

This early 70’s jazz-influenced rocker is an awesome take on bringing Mary Shelley’s gothic monster to life and Edgar Winter himself looks like something out of a dark fantasy. From the album “The Only Come Out at Night.” Feel the electricity!

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09

“Werewolves of London” — Warren Zevon

10 years ago this month, we lost a true genius in the world of Rock and Roll with the passing of Warren Zevon. Though he battled his own demons and at times his songwriting suffered, when he was “on,” few could touch him (“Desperadoes Under the Eaves” is a simply FLAWLESS composition with some of the best lyrics ever written.) “Werewolves of London” is the song he is best known for and it’s no secret why. The undeniably catchy piano progression that the song is built around anchors a delightfully morbid tale that juxtaposes suave werewolves in everyday situations with their victims, mutilated and torn asunder. Annnnd… A mention of the great Lon Chaney of “London After Midnight” (plus countless others) and “The Wolf Man” himself, Lon Chaney Jr. Pure fun!

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Get out there and do it (he says more for his own benefit than anything)!

Here’s PART I.

Here’s PART II.

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FILM :: REVIEWS… THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE (1975)… BENEATH LOCH NESS (2002)… CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)… DARK SHADOWS (2012)

To follow up on my first film review post and this one: I’m taking these first three posts to catch up with reviews of what I have watched so far in 2013 from the world of horror. Whether older films through a more mature pair of eyes or new movies from the genre, I’ll be capturing it all here moving forward.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )

Here are four more I have watched in 2013 so far… This catches me up…

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FILM :: THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE
YEAR :: 1975
DIRECTOR :: Alfredo Rizzo

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Ummmm… Yeah… What can I say? This was bad. Like really bad. Simply awful writing, terrible dubs, wooden performances and thoroughly confusing plot all add up to one abominable film. Even a bevy of really gorgeous 70’s italian ingenues regularly au naturel in classic gothic settings throughout the movie can’t save this one. Films like this CAN be funny in how bad they are. There CAN be a charm to it. This film… Nope.

Want a taste? Just check out the trailer. It really gives a sense of the godawful experience this is.

WARNING… NSFW… 70s LESBIAN NUDITY!!!

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1685194521/

UGH! What a shambles.
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RATING ………………. 0.5 STARS

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FILM :: BENEATH LOCH NESS
YEAR :: 2002
DIRECTOR :: Chuck Comisky

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I am a lover of all things cryptozoological. I always have been, even since the days of my youth. I think it’s the possibility of finding real-life “monsters” in the world around us that intrigues. A sort of a repudiation of the rational and a belief in something greater.

Unfortunately, this film captures none of that.

When a member of a scientific / reality TV expedition to Loch Ness dies in a “mysterious” diving accident, the legendarily unorthodox and ruggedly good looking expedition leader Blay comes to  handle things personally. More odd happenings and strange attacks plague the Loch.  Can Blay and his team succeed against a highlands “locals only” mentality and their fears to solve the riddle of the Loch? Do we care?

Unfortunately not. Nothing MAKES us care, here.

I LOVE a good monster movie in the classic sense and especially one with a crypto bent, but this sucker is flat, flat, flat. The script simply stinks and Comisky’s direction is totally uninspired. The actors have poor material to work with, but their performances do nothing to help us find any emotional resonance. It’s like everyone was aiming for a TV-quality movie from the 80’s and they still fell short.

I wouldn’t spend any time on this one. It reeks like bad haggis. If you’re searching for something in the Loch with more of a soul, go for 2007’s “The Water Horse.” That one isn’t perfect either and it’s somewhat geared for kids, but it’s damn good comparatively. That’s a far better bet than this sinker.

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RATING ………………. 0.5 STARS

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FILM :: CABIN IN THE WOODS
YEAR :: 2012
DIRECTOR :: Drew Goddard

cabininthewoods_horror

FINALLY… Something different.

AWESOME concept with this one. I won’t share too much as almost anything would act as a spoiler. I think the summary on IMDB is a solid “interest piquer” ::

Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods.

At first glance this would seem to be another de rigueur young, sexy sleepaway slasher pic. BUT, this film couldn’t be farther from that. Creative, self-aware and genuinely fun, writers Josh Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directs) give us so much more in “Cabin.”. In the process, the film both uses and lampoons horror genre clichés a la Wes Craven at his best, shifting the viewer’s perspective and giving us a laugh.

The cast is spot on, giving us sexy thrills, harrowing screams and classic horror bravado in turns. They evoke just enough pathos that we wince when the writers remind us we’re watching a horror movie by showing us just how disposable they are.

This is a great film for genre-heads and non-horror fans alike. It’s that good. Don’t miss it.

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RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS

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FILM :: DARK SHADOWS
YEAR :: 2012
DIRECTOR :: Tim Burton

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I am SUPER TEMPTED to give this a one word review…

“Oops.”

But I love so much of Tim Burton’s other work that I think the film deserves a few more words to explain why.

It’s SUCH a shame that is is such a fail. There was so much to work with: truly classic source material, a very solid cast, a real budget, Tim Burton’s eye. But all of that just wasn’t enough to overcome a terribly weak script. Really, this is a perfect example of why there has to be some substance behind the style. Without deft, truly meaty writing, images (even the most compelling), fall flat.

I did want to give the movie SOME points for style. It is, at times, quite stylish: Great soundtrack, very nice cinematography, fun style nods to the original “Dark Shadows.” But even these have their detractors as they ultimately serve a flawed master in the story.

It’s worth a watch if you’re a die hard fan, but I feel that your time is MUCH better served by simply watching the original series.

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RATING ………………. 2.5 STARS

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Again, this catches me up. Stay tuned for more moving forward!

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ART :: LES EDWARDS, PAINTER OF HORROR

For the past 35 years, Les Edwards has given horror fans some truly spine-chilling images. He is a true leader within the genre. His ability to capture the personality of his subjects in a painterly way is only outpaced by his skill rendering textures. Look at those fabrics! Look at that hair and those skin surfaces!  Join me in tribute to this painter of nightmares.

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MUSIC :: THE ROOTS OF HORROR ROCK PART II… ALICE COOPER

How can you follow Screamin’ Jay Hawkins? Really, there’s only one cat cool enough to take the stage RIGHT after… The great Alice Cooper.

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Neé Vincent Damon Furnier, in Detroit Michigan in 1948, this artist took the beginnings of horror rock from Screamin’ Jay and opened the doors wide.

Throughout his six decades in the music business, Alice Cooper has done an incalculable service for horror rockers and for the horror genre itself. With a stage show that includes guillotines, prop blood, real boa constrictors, electric chairs, MORE prop blood and baby dolls, how could we not pay homage to this man? Rolling Stone has referred to him as “the world’s most beloved heavy metal entertainer” and I have to agree.

Check this out. Still awe-inspiring after decades!

(Thanks to Fulton Pub for the AWESOME live vid.)

Cooper’s trademark look and makeup was inspired by the worlds of film and TV. He drew inspiration originally from Bette Davis in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” Then, he saw “Barbarella.” Cooper said of the look, “When I saw Anita Pallenberg playing the Great Tyrant in that movie in 1968, wearing long black leather gloves with switchblades coming out of them, I thought, ‘That’s what Alice should look like.’ That, and a little bit of Emma Peel from ‘The Avengers.'”

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Here he is with the amazing Vincent Price and a song from “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

A legendary image built on horror.

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For all of these years, you have continued to entertain and shock us, Mr. Cooper. A boa’s embrace for all of the chills.

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FILM :: REVIEWS… THE RE-ANIMATOR (1985)… HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986)… VAMP (1986)

To follow up on my first film review post: I’m taking these first posts to catch up with reviews of what I have watched so far in 2013 from the world of horror. Whether older films through a more mature pair of eyes or new movies from the genre, I’ll be capturing it all here moving forward.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )

Here are three more I have watched in 2013 so far…

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FILM :: RE-ANIMATOR
YEAR :: 1985
DIRECTOR :: Stuart Gordon

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Where to start with this one? There is just so much awesomeness going on with this film — an HP Lovecraft story brought to life with absolute trash perfection.

This is a film about mad scientists, glowing secret formulas and reanimated body parts with anger issues. Really, it’s a perfect palette for director Stuart Gordon to play with and he handles it with just the right amount of reckless abandon. He treats the material with a deft blend of deadpan seriousness and hyperbolic craziness. The result is truly memorable with scene after scene of deliciously nutty drama soaked in blood, guts and adrenaline.

I absolutely love the cast on this film. Jeffrey Combs is flawless as Herbert West, the scientist with the formula and the grisly drive to raise the undead. David Gale plays the perfect foil to West as a perfectly evil rival scientist with a creeped-out sexual attraction to his colleague’s college daughter, the innocent but very sexy Barbara Crampton as Megan Halsey.  With Bruce Abbott as a reluctant partner to Herbert and lover to Megan and a fun supporting cast beyond.

The film with leave you in stitches and give you some unforgettable images to dream about afterwards. Buckle up. This is a wild ride.

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RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS

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FILM :: HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER
YEAR :: 1986
DIRECTOR :: John McNaughton

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Emotionally raw, brutally honest and indie in feel, “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” is the real deal.

Made for just $125,000 with an independent cast from Chicago’s Organic Theater Company, founded (in a bit of Jungian synchronicity for this post), by “Re-Animator” director Stuart Gordon, the film takes a work-a-day approach to the subject, giving it a true sense of the real. McNaughton deserves very high praise for this treatment. Stunning.

It is this true sense that gives the film its power. It is a gray, drab, water-stained portrait of a drifter who kills remorselessly to assuage the boredom in his life. Everyone who is a fan of Anthony Hopkins’ campy portrayal of Hannibal Lechter needs to watch Michael Rooker’s powerful, dull embodiment of psychopathy here in the title role. No camp. No comic relief. No mercy.

He is supported brilliantly by Tom Towles as the ultra-creepy Ottis and Tracy Arnold as his Ottis’s hapless sister who is fascinated and attracted to Henry’s raw power. All of the performances here are honest and give the film undeniable emotional electricity.

Though years have passed since the film was made, it has not blunted in any way. It still gives us an unrelenting peek at the life of a true psychopath at work.

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RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS

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FILM :: VAMP
YEAR :: 1986
DIRECTOR :: Richard Wenk

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Holy 80’s. If this didn’t have the amazing Grace Jones in it, I would shudder to think of its value.

Goofy, sloppy, bad and only partially charmingly so, this film encapsulates the fun-but-scholcky side of the 80’s horror scene. This is part titillating (quite literally, I might add) frat-ready fantasy, part cornball comedy with a few plastic chills all wrapped up in the poor (think destitute) man’s version of Scorsese’s pitch perfect 1985 film “After Hours.”

Though it isn’t horror and unless you just want to glimpse the awesome Grace Jones at the height of her powers, just skip this and watch “After Hours.” You’ll be more frightened and a heck of a lot happier.

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RATING ………………. 1.5 STARS

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I will continue to post catch-up reviews as I march towards the new stuff. Stay tuned!

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